Tolkien’s Fever by John Little

John Little

 

Tolkien’s Fever

 

A legion of days has marched past me thus far in this war. I have counted every day, with baited breath, hoping that one among the thousands would end my entrenchment in these murky, blood-filled pools. Unlike some of my fellows, I do not harbor any hatred towards the boys across the way, the Germans, for they suffer as we do. Those in control are dastardly creatures for sure, and deserve no less than a bullet to the brain or a bayonet to the heart, but I do sympathize with the men. The simple men who would rather plow their land and tend to their families than be bunkered down with the vermin and the parasites. Those are the things we share the most, a fondness for our homes and revulsion towards these filthy creatures. The rats seem large enough to give a terrier a good fight, that is, if one assumes a rat would fight fair. No, the rats are easy enough really, dreadfully afraid of noise and have at least some sense of self preservation. No, the real demons are the lice. I have not had the misfortune of dealing with the blood sucking beasts for more than the time it takes me to brush them away. Some men however have extoled the horrors at dealing with lice, and have even fallen ill to their incessant march on human flesh.

 The battle went well last night. A German dugout was captured and a few men, myself included, are being sent to inspect and determine its suitability for our troops. In crossing the war torn earth to the dugout, I saw numerous bodies littering the field. Most of these bodies were of departed German soldiers; this was not due to an overwhelming victory on our part. We were permitted to bring our dead back. The Germans had no such luxury for the dead cannot carry the dead.

 We reached the dugout, physically no worse for wear. After a close inspection we determined the place suitable for our troop’s occupation. As officers, our belongings were not long behind us. We decided to stay as a sign of good faith to the regular army men and bunkered down for the night. As I lay down and closed my eyes to rest, what felt like a wave of the lightest electricity washed over me. For a time I sat idle, believing the strange sensation to be a settling of the nerves that would soon pass. When the sensation did not cease and instead gave way to a series of thousands of pin pricks, my eyes flashed open. I sat in a sea of lice. I arose almost in panic and brushed most of the vermin off. None had penetrated my clothing. Of that, I was thankful. I visited our medic and asked if there wasn’t something he could give me to repel the creatures. He prescribed an ointment and gave me some pills to help me sleep. I returned to my bed roll and after applying the ointment liberally, and taking twice as many pills as I ought to have, I dozed off. Within moments the lice had renewed the attack and seemed only invigorated by the ointment.

I awoke to screaming. I rose quickly to see what caused the alarm and was struck dumb by what I saw. I had lost my dugout and was standing in a field in which war was breaking out as it never has on this earth. Men of the strangest assortment of sizes were clad in armor and wielding every sort of sharpened weapon imaginable. Swords and spears, daggers and axes were being wielded with such a deftness that does not often grace our modern society. In fact if it ever graced our civilization, past or present, I would be amazed. What seemed like legions of these men, ranging from average height to what surely must have been dwarves, and if one looked carefully a people of even smaller size, almost that of half a man, could be seen fighting for their lives. The creatures they fought were almost too horrible to imagine. With sickly green flesh, mangled teeth, and eyes fixed with madness, they lurched like a sea of venom against the men. Both men and creatures were falling at an equal rate. As one group would seem to gain a lead, the other would redouble its efforts and gain the field once again. Men falling to beasts and beasts falling to men, it went on for what seemed an eternity. One of the green, evil, fanged creatures saw me standing alone and seemingly defenseless. As he began his charge towards me, I went to my sidearm. To my horror it had vanished. I had so set myself as the onlooker of this terrible battle that I had not seen the mortal peril I was in. The beastie lumbered toward me with great strides, carrying what I could only describe as a scrap of wickedly sharp metal, and when he came close enough to strike he went for my throat. In the moment that I was to acquire my first and last taste of death I was saved by the tiniest of happenings. A fellow of no more than a meter or so in height appeared as if swept there by some unseen force to bury his blade into the bowels of the beast. After slaying the brute and promptly removing his sword he turned to me and gave me a look I will never forget. In his eyes were so many uncertain feelings, feelings of joy, hope, of pain and despair, of battles won and lost and friends found and fallen; it was the look of a man who has seen the truth of the world. I waited for a word, a statement, a scream, a roar, anything that would let me know who or what this little man creature was, but instead he did the most uncommon thing I have ever seen. He smiled, turned, and charged back into the fray to join his friends, all of which seemed unbelievable glad to see him. Before I could begin to contemplate this any further a great thundering began in the lines of the men, dwarves, and tiny man creatures.

Within moments, a great white light began to form on the side of the men. As it came together it formed into the shape of what I can only imagine God would look like: a being of immense age and knowledge yet living untouched by time. Joined by a small gathering of every kind of warrior on the side of the men it marched across the field as if to deal the final blow to the horde of grotesque creatures. I found myself wishing with all my might that this would be the case. As the figure was about to deal an earth shattering blow that surely would have changed the tides, a wisp of black appeared, then a flame, and then a shadow began to loom over the battlefield. As if from the dark hearts of the creatures themselves a being of fire and shadow emerged from the air and collided with the brilliant figure of the men. It roared, and raged, and bellowed fire and darkness across the field enveloping all those in its path. From within this darkness emerged a blinding light echoing from the form of the figure in white. The darkness receded and the two sides seemed to be holding their breath before the final plunge. The creature of fire and shadow roared, the white god stood shining brilliantly in the sun, and then the world crashed in around me.

I awoke, feverishly, to being shaken by my fellow officers. The lice, after their feast, had left me with an illness and an enduring fever. I had the vaguest recollection of what I had dreamed, but within minutes none of the details remained. No, that is not quite right, I did remember one thing. I could not get the image of those small men out of my mind. Why such a small people would be participating in what I vaguely remember to be an extremely important battle, I did not know. I began to ponder how a person of that stature would see the world and I must admit I have become rather obsessed with the idea, in the way that someone who is suffering amnesia obsesses over their memory. I just couldn’t seem to let it go.

The war is not nearly over but I do imagine that if and when I return home I will still have plenty to think about concerning these most unlikely adventurers.


 

Battle of the Memories by Jeremiah Sater

Jeremiah Sater

 

Battle of the Memories

Explosions rang out all around the man. Rifle in hand, he rushed across the battlefield, his closest friends and family beside him. A noticeable, but indescribable difference appeared between him and his companions. Multiple explosions impacted the ground around him, knocking him to the ground. Crawling forward, he stopped behind a small hill. His comrades dropped to the ground around him, each holding rifles and other assortment of weapons.

Peering over the hill, the enemy remained unseen. Only the explosions showed they remained in the distance. An elderly woman moved across the hill toward him. “Hold on. Don’t let go. You are so close.”

Standing up, he began to run again, his comrades close behind once again. The woman started coming closer, before an explosion hit the ground in front of her. Never stopping, the man continued to move forward as the smoke revealed the woman gone. Another explosion knocked the man off his feet again, but he managed to remain balanced to continue forward.

An elderly man ran forward, knocking him to the ground before another explosion blasted the earth behind them. “Keep your head up. Eyes forward at all times. Mind open, don’t forget. Don’t let go.”

Getting back to his feet, he began to run again. Stumbling, pain shot through his legs, but he ignored it. The words of the woman and the man resonated through his mind. He couldn’t let go, he couldn’t forget. Forward, he must go forward. As the old man continued behind him, an explosion originated from the ground, blasting him from existence.

His other friends and family began to spread out around him. Each wiped off the battlefield by random explosions. The man dropped to the ground again, holding his arms over his head, his body filled with pain. Looking ahead, a bright light reached his eyes. Struggling to his feet, he began to run as his legs went numb. Dropping to the ground again, he pulled himself forward by his arms as multiple explosions blasted the area around him. Most of his family and friends now lay dead or disappeared off the battlefield.

A young woman dropped to his side. Helping him to his feet, she pushed him forward. “Go! Don’t forget! Reach the light and hold on!”

The feeling returning to his legs, he propelled himself forward as the young woman disappeared in a cloud of fire. As he grew nearer to the light, an explosion blasted the ground behind him, propelling him into the ground in front of the light…

“Hello, my name is Dr. Stevenson. You are in a hospital. What is your name?”

He stared up at the man in the gleaming white clothes. “What? Who am I…?”

Improper Vision by Rebecca Burcham

Rebecca Burcham

Improper Vision

 

 

How can you look forward,

when all I can see is the past?

The ever-changing days ahead

will only leave yesterday unsurpassed.

Nothing in our future time

can change the departed age.

Where life was lenient, time was truthful,

and responsibility wasn’t a cage.

What does tomorrow have to give,

save for questions, doubts, and the pain?

You must see a different future than I…

Or is it me fighting against the grain?

Surely there are good things yet to come,

hand in hand with the bad, not a curse;

maybe your view—the positive one—

can see all the negatives reversed.

                                            Is it possible for life to be inherently good?

Can tomorrow bring hope from the gloom?

Maybe while I was busy looking back,

the future is beginning to bloom.


EM! by Prince Blake and Racheal Sooeko

Prince Blake and Racheal Sooeko

 

EM!

 

 

BOY: I like em short

 

Girl: I like em tall

 

BOY: I like em sweet

 

Girl: I like em with a streak

 

BOY: I’m kinda interested in the one I can walk down to the creek

 

Girl: Well I love mine to care what’s on my feet

 

NOBODY WANTS A CREEP

 

Girl: I like a kiss before sleep

 

BOY: Cool I’m fine with some cute feet

 

Girl: Of course, I like to be the boss so I need one I can beat

 

BOY: Im not goin for that you not gon find that in me

 

Girl: Nobody asked you dummy, I’m hippin you ‘bout what comforts me

 

BOY: Well I don’t care how you like em

 

BOY: I like em

 

HOW I LIKE EM

 

BOY: Anyway I like the curly hair ones

 

Girl: I like em with a nice coolio fade

 

BOY: I also like the ones that know a lil Spanish

 

Girl: I want one that would stay for longer than one night and won’t vanish

 

BOY:I like one who has future plans

 

Girl: What! One that will major in caring for and a stripper that dances for can goods

 

BOY: Girl you thought you knew the game plan

 

Girl: Boy you’re a lame!

 

Girl: Can I get a body builder?

 

BOY: So you want a man with lil nipples and no neck

 

Girl: Huuhhhh

 

Girl: I like em!

 

            HOW I LIKE EM

Destruction of Erudition by Leroy Mourer

Leroy Mourer

 

Destruction of Erudition

 

 

Fire in my soul

let me perish in the night.

From the ice in my heart,

I fear the destruction.

A world gone insane,

no help to suffice

or a favor offered.

Has desire gone by

to be filled with hate.

Struggle to survive

in need to be great.

The Ever Road by Patrick Willock

Patrick Willock

The Ever Road

My steps go walking clip and clop,

my feet go stomping flip and flop.

I see the land go rolling by,

I feel the rain go plip and plop.

I walk beneath the azure sky,

while little pebbles catch my eye,

and on and on my path does spread;

this path belongs to only I.

Now all along this path I’ve tread,

I see the ways my feet have sped,

and all the pits that blocked my way,

they dragged me down with sacks of lead.

But as I walk both night and day,

Someone keeps evil at bay,

and gives my head a place to lay,

and gives my head a place to lay.


Home by Monica Cerezo

Monica Cerezo

Home

Home all day in this house;

four blank walls closing in. Peeking out

the window shade, the sun

is bright and beckoning.

The kids wake, hungry now-

wanting a cooked breakfast

of eggs, pancakes, toast, and juice.

They interrupt my

few moments of quiet

time to reflect and plan

the day ahead. I need

more time and energy.

“Enjoy these years,” they say.

I try hard to give them

all of me in each moment.

Even though my house is

full and bustling, I

still feel trapped and lonely.

I need to escape these

square walls that block me in

every day, all day.

Just a few hours of

refreshing me time

is all I think I need.

Running is my outlet.

I can run for miles and

miles out in the sunshine.

I cannot hear the kids

asking for this or that.

I can only hear the

beat of music in my

ears as each foot lands on

the pavement. As I run

my thoughts are cleared and I

get a new sense of who

I am. I can sing and

pray and release all my

frustrations while I run.

It is a free feeling

to run without any

restrictions in my path.

I feel like a bird who

flies high in the sunshine.

The bird is free yet

takes care of her young.

She nurtures them and loves

them but flies about free.

Out in the sunshine is

where I crave, but nothing

can keep me from the four

walls of my home sweet home.


Lost Affair by Fatima Abdul-Aleem

Fatima Abdul-Aleem

Lost Affair

I am crying,

the tears are falling,

down they come.

An outpour of loneliness,

expressed in the only way I know how.

You see,

I miss the warmth,

the feel of  someone’s caress

on my pages.

Massaging my covers,

touching my essence,

as they delve into the words

enveloped inside me.

They seek the promise of escape,

the illusion of make believe,

the power of growth.

I miss their scent.

That sweaty smell

of a hard days’ work,

that lingering aroma

of the morning’s perfume.

I miss being alive.

A thumping passion

in the hearts of the young,

as they eagerly look ahead.

A resounding memory

of the elderly,

as they prepare to exit

this adventure, called life.

For I have been replaced with

touch screens, audio, live feeds.

Machines bellow out my contents,

videos explain what I mean.

Computer keys are punched

to replace his fingers,

her hands.

The melody of the love we shared

exchanged,

for an iPad, a Kindle, a Nook.


Always Them by Amanda Hart Miller

Amanda Hart Miller

Always Them

(Previously published in Apeiron Review)

Little girls can be stolen, especially a little girl with sad, heavy-lidded eyes and a too-small jacket, a girl who carries a stuffed unicorn in the crook of her arm and rubs it against her lips again and again. She waits all alone at a bus stop by a patch of winter-gray woods. The few houses on the street have cardboard taped to the windows and junk on the porches. To put a bus stop here, Johnny feels, someone must have been asleep at the wheel.

Johnny has been watching her now for 41 school days. He marks off the days in his notebook, which he then tucks away. Johnny’s head doesn’t work as well as it used to, so he can’t remember these things unless he writes them down. He writes other things about her, too:

 

Girlie has ribbons in her hair today but they fall out she keep putting them back in. Girlies hair don’t cover that bruze. Girlie got candy bar today. Girlie stares and stares at the moon this morning I want to be there too Girlie.

On his most daring of days, he trills a bird call and she turns around to see nothing because he’s behind the trunk of a big tree. He rests his cheek against the bark and listens to his heart scurrying back down his throat.

He wears trash bags and rides his bike along the main drag in what is a small town. People say it’s because his wife got burned up in a house fire and he went crazy. He’s written this down. He doesn’t remember that happening, but he does remember lying with Bea after love, her skin silky and scented like almonds and sex, don’t ever leave me but he doesn’t know where she is now. And sometimes he remembers the men under the overpass tying him up and lighting him on fire Ooh-wee… he’s lit up like a Christmas tree but usually this stays deeper inside him in someplace that can’t be remembered but eats him up just the same.

Girlie sometimes tries to trick him, he thinks. She brings chalk and draws pictures on the sidewalk, and she works on them so hard that she has to press her lips together tight so she can think, but suddenly she’ll look up quickly, at his tree. The mornings are getting darker, though. It will soon be the longest night of the year.

After the bus comes and takes Girlie away, he copies her chalk drawings into his notebook. She mostly draws hearts and flowers, and he likes to pretend she draws them for him. When he copies them into his notebook, they are for her.

On January 20th, the sky is much more gray than white. A van pulls up to the bus stop. When the man inside puts down the window and says something to Girlie, she stands up from her drawing and cocks her head. She takes three steps back from the van, and Johnny feels like he’s one of the tiny hairs on her skin—just as bristled and scared. She takes another step back and then looks toward Johnny. He forgets to hide because he falls into her eyes for years before she looks back to The BadMan, who is opening the van door until he, too, sees Johnny.

The man shakes his head and mutters something angry that Johnny can’t hear. The van purrs as it rolls away.

Girlie is smiling at Johnny, thin lips closed and dimples showing. Now there’s this thing linking them, hurtling him through a rabbit hole of jittery nerves so he comes out the other end pumped and fretting at the same time.

The bus comes then and Girlie gets on. He can see her through the window, through her clothes to her skin and even deeper, to her heart sending all that blood around, and even deeper than that, to what it all means. The world has always been just the three of them: Girlie and The BadMan and this block of flesh that is Johnny’s to place between them. With trembling hands, he pulls out his notebook.


Escape from the Siren’s Lair by Stephen Barber

Stephen Barber

Escape from the Siren’s Lair

The ancient who first told the story of Athena’s birth from the skull of Zeus must have had a hangover like this. I may not be the mythic god-king of Olympus, but I surely feel a tiny enraged person trying to burst forth from my head. My mouth feels like it is lined with a particularly old and ratty carpet, and my stomach is a churning maelstrom of cheap booze and chicken wings.

As the world became clearer in the morning light, I realize that the smoke stained, floral print wallpaper and wrinkled pink bed sheets were unfamiliar. There was also a gently snoring creature under the covers to my left.

 

What had happened? How had a quiet night of libations at the Badger’s Den led me to these odd surroundings? Who or what is this comatose form lying next to me, and for the love of God, why am I naked? All of these thoughts bounced around my already aching skull. Recollection of the night before was still fuzzy; my brain was trying desperately to shift out of first gear.

There was something about Popov and a hint of shame but a more complete picture was not quite forming. An investigation of this sleeping being under the covers next to me was in order. I leant over and pulled down the sheets to reveal the sum of my indiscretions.

Oh unmerciful Bacchus, what hath you wrought upon me!

The naked wrinkled visage of the Badger’s Den’s most storied and reviled barfly, DeDe, lay before me, a woman old enough to be my mother and in no way the sexy Miss Robinson type. If Helen of Troy’s face could send a thousand ships, DeDe’s distorted mug could sink twice that number.

With this jarring discovery, my synapses began firing and the mortifying memory of the night before began to invade my tortured mind. What began as a quiet evening of beer and billiards had turned into a debauched foray of plastic bottle vodka and reckless abandon.

While the vile liquid was disarming my inhibitions, DeDe had closed in like a hungry wolf to a wounded lamb. With a devilish toothless grin, she put her hand on my lap and asked if I could buy her a drink. Unlike wise Odysseus, I veered right into the siren’s boulder-like breasts. The unmercifully vivid memory of her telling me that I looked like a young Marlon Brando before slamming me into the cigarette machine and latching her gaping maw onto my mouth flooded back. I was not even spared the recollection of how her tongue was the flavor of bubble gum martinis and halitosis.

I began to shudder as the fuzzy details of the events after we stumbled back to her dingy apartment materialized. How she grabbed my crotch with a level of aggression that would have made Michael Jackson uncomfortable. It then proceeded to a coital experience comparable only to being caught in a fat, drunk crocodile death roll.

The decision to flee came quickly; I snuck into the bathroom, finding my crumpled clothes. Glancing at the mirror, I saw that my neck was covered in hickeys that looked like they must have been created by some sort of industrial vacuum. After leaving the bathroom, I went to make my final escape, only to be met with a sight of abject horror. DeDe had awakened and positioned herself between the door and me. Her whole shamelessly bare body jiggled menacingly.

She gave me a leer so filthy that it encrusted my very soul with its profane grime. Before my terrified mouth could make words, DeDe turned around, put her hands against the door, and jutted her megalithic ass towards me.

“If you want to leave, you’re going to have to unlock my door with your key one more time, honey.”

Vomit began to swell up my throat as I stared into the infernal abyss stretched open before me. Wildly looking about, I could see that all the windows had bars and that I was trapped. There was only one option left, and it certainly was not to use my “key,” as DeDe so euphemistically put it. I let out the war cry of a man who had nothing to lose and charged with all my might into the bovine buttocks blocking my path. With a tumultuous crash, the weight of DeDe’s vast carcass splintered the door from its frame, sending me tumbling to my freedom.